Friday, December 03, 2010

La Mecca-zocco

The machine that started it all.

Quite some time ago, someone asked me what I thought of espresso in Italy. Is it better than America? Is it really "the best"?

Truth is, I had never been to Italy. Never tasted "real" Italian espresso. So I had no idea what the difference, if any, that existed. But I figured that someday I would end up in Italy and find out.

The Boiler Room.

So when the opportunity came up to travel to Africa, I decided to tack on a couple of days in Europe to see what the fuss was all about. Certainly, the coffee in France is terrible, maybe it would be better in the land where espresso originated: Italia.

Which is how I found myself zooming north along the A1 Autostrade in an attempt to find a little town called Burgo di San Lorenzo. I was making the journey to my own espresso mecca: La Marzocco.

Insulated Strada boilers.

Those who know me in the coffee business know that I'm very hardcore about La Marzocco espresso machines. I really won't have any other. Yes, there are lots of great machines made by great people out there, but to me, the La Marzocco is the Ferrari of espresso machines. Porsche and Lamborghini make great autos, but they will never steal that luster (yes, I mean as in "lust", it's not a typo) for La Marzocco.

Before leaving the States, I made a call to Kent Bakke about visiting. Turns out he wouldn't be in Florence during my trip but that Mary would take care of my needs. The plan was to arrive in Florence and make the drive to countryside, arriving at La Marozocco by 2pm. With all the problems in flights and baggage, I didn't get to the factory until 4pm and it was getting dark.

Top Secret stuff with the first production Strada EP.

Over a year ago, La Marzocco built a new facility that's much larger and nicer than the original - or so they say. The main entrance features an old coffee roaster and some vintage equipment from the original factory. Upstairs is the museum slash coffee bar, along with offices, training center, conference room and classroom.

Downstairs is where the fun happens: manufacturing. Over fifty people work here at La Marzocco where they produce a few thousand machines a year. Looking around it really is La Marzocco mecca. Machines of every model and size are everywhere. It's a spare parts orgasm. I'd like to pick up supplies but really I'm a bit overwhelmed.

Mary Diamond and the GS3 production line.

They've just started the production of the first ten Strada EP machines and we bump into Roberto who's trying to fix a problem with Strada EP Number One. I'd tell you what the problem was but I've been placed in the Cone Of Silence about what I saw with the new Strada but I did manage a photo to show you (it's been redacted due to WikiLeaks).

Sadly, my visit to La Marzocco was limited. My flights were late, I arrived late, it's Friday and of course, everyone wants to go home for the weekend, but I did get to see Piero Bambi for a moment or two. It was a short visit but a good one and I look forward to returning on another trip.

Ah, La Marzocco Heaven.

Seattle mural on the conference room wall.

Custom GS3 machines.

A custom painted FB80.

The ubiquitous plastic La Marzocco tamper, in stainless steel.

The bar with custom brass cased FB80, Swift grinder and new Volcano grinder.

From the front.

The Conference Room

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